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How Does Opioid Addiction Even Start in Teens?

When we look back on the opioid epidemic, there was point when we asked ourselves, How did we get here? Before we knew it, approximately 53,000 people overdosed from opioids in 2016 causing us to scrambled to protect our loved ones. Teenagers make up around 4200 of the opioid overdoses that occurred in 2016 and over 500,000 hospital visits due to opioid misuse causing over 90,000 teens to attend rehab and programs such as the adolescent opioid abuse treatment programs. We were astonished by these statistics which made us jump up and do something different, but we had to establish why addiction opioids even started with teens in the first place to get to the crux of the problem.


With doctors and pharmaceutical companies pushing opioids for all types of ailments across the board, pills seemed to be flowing everywhere without regard to addiction. The realization of the opioid crisis came much too late with the overabundance of prescription pain pills being pushed exactly like they were from a dealer.


Many parents would use their opioids for an as needed basis and leave their pills in the medicine cabinets for anyone to access. Teens or their friends would find them and either take them or give them to other teens who loved the effects that they received from something that must be safe if it was prescribed by a doctor.   


Doctors can prescribe opioids to teenagers when their injuries or illnesses warrant pain management such as a sports injury or having to get their tonsils removed. The problem with prescribing pain medication to teens is that they are more susceptible to addiction at an early age.

Peer pressure

Teens peer pressure one another plain and simple. Teens who get their hands on prescription medication and know the euphoric feelings they get from the drugs will more than likely report back to their friends and offer them a chance to get high too. Friends can make an unsuspecting teen more willing to try something that maybe they are really not ready for.


A teen is still developing neurologically, physically, and psychologically which makes the use of opioids extremely dangerous. Reports from Pew Research Center shows that teens who tried their first drug before age of 15 were 6 times more likely to have an addiction as an adult. Once the limbic system in the brain feels the euphoric effects that opioids create, the unknowing teen wants more causing a tolerance to start building up. Now that we know the reasons why the opioid epidemic notoriously prevailed, we have a better defense to get the number of addicted teenagers down. Our job as parents is to protect our kids at all costs and understanding why the opioid addiction started is a beneficial place to start.

Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center leads the way with progressive, evidence-based programming to most effectively treat each individual adolescent while focusing on the uniqueness of each client. Healing the mind, the body, and the spirit as one in the same can make the biggest difference in staying sober.

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